A Campaign In Its Final Week?

Jeff Tedford (US Presswire)

Like in the presidential campaign, California head coach Jeff Tedford projects confidence in the last week. But have the deciding voters already made up their minds?

BERKELEY, Calif. – Jeff Tedford, political operative?

In the last few days, the embattled California head coach has taken a page from the recently concluded presidential campaign by subtlety tweaking his talking points in the final week. He pointed to the down seasons at Auburn and Virginia Tech, leaped at comparisons between his situation and the incredible turnaround at Oregon State this year, raised youth and injuries and close losses of the 2012 Bears.

The timing is strange, to say the least. The Bay Area News Group reported that athletic director Sandy Barbour would meet with Tedford as early as Sunday to discuss the future of the program. It seems unlikely her mind is not already made up, that she has not already put together the nearly seven million dollars needed to pay off his buyout if Cal is ready to move in another direction.

Saturday night's season finale at Oregon State is almost an afterthought, that the program is condemned to finish Tedford's worst season with eight losses, a staggering five straight to end the campaign.

At Tuesday's press conference, usually filled with reflections on the last game and looking ahead to the next one, the Beavers were barely an afterthought, aside from a couple questions I asked about their pair of wide receivers, and another about the defense.

Instead, it felt like a post-mortem. Tedford said Allan Bridgford would go into spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback in the race to replace Zach Maynard, but it would be an open competition. He spoke glowingly about freshman Zach Kline's development, how he had been exposed to every aspect of game planning and travel, and now had to put it all together on the field.

Tedford said he would meet with his staff to begin preparations for recruiting and next season.

But it all seemed like a façade, considering that much like the race for the nation's highest office, whether Tedford returns to his post depends on one simple question: is Cal better off than it was four years ago?

By any objective criteria, the answer is no.

Since the 2009 season, Cal is 14-21 in conference play and hasn't won a bowl game in two tries. The offense has been defined by mediocre quarterback play and diminished performance along the line of scrimmage.

The offense, Tedford's trademark, has become a disjointed mess, especially this season, alternating from spread passing concepts to heavy run personnel without any apparent connecting thread. The playcalling was conservative when it needed to be aggressive, reckless when it needed to be controlled. When the run was working, a pass would be called to blunt any momentum.

The running back rotation has been a free-for-all, unclear from one game to the next who would be the bell cow.

Maynard never progressed, apart from his now totally inexplicable performance versus UCLA. Wide receiver Keenan Allen was never utilized in a way that reflected his immense talents.

If Tedford has already won over his constituency – Barbour and those controlling the purse strings – his final week campaign blitz doesn't really matter. And if it's all over but the press release or press conference announcing a change, it doesn't really matter, aside from laying groundwork for where the blame goes.

Either way, it seems like a strange move to take.

Either way, Tedford might have found another career when football is over.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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